(#1 Idris Taqqee and #3 Marcus Posley Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
After an 11-day gap between games due to final exams, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies return to action on Saturday as they host the South Carolina State Bulldogs at 2 p.m. in the Reilly Center.
Since Bonaventure’s victory over Vermont on Dec. 8, the Bulldogs have played twice, defeating Jacksonville last Saturday before falling at Duquesne on Wednesday. After being picked eighth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s preseason poll, the school more known for its football team has started the basketball season at 5-6, with a two-point loss at Kansas St.
This is a “buy game” for the Bonnies, meaning the athletic department is paying South Carolina State to come play. SBU has struggled in these games in recent memory, losing to Maryland-Eastern Shore last December and faltering against Arkansas St. in December 2011, the year they ended up winning the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Will Bona be able to improve to 7-2 in center Jordan Tyson’s return, or will the Bulldogs hand them another buy-game defeat? Here’s the full breakdown:
St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 130-125 as Bonnies coach.
South Carolina St.- Murray Garvin. 26-55 as Bulldogs coach.
Key players for South Carolina St.:
Eric Eaves- 6-foot-3 junior guard. Eaves leads the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game. He’s a very aggressive player on both sides of the ball; nearly 40 percent of his points come from the free-throw line, and he has a team-leading 10 steals on defense. One good sign for the brown and white is that Eaves struggled against A-10 member Duquesne, with just four points on 1-of-6 shooting. He dropped 30 against NAIA school Allen University, but against the Dukes he was far less potent.
Ed Stephens- 6-foot-2 sophomore guard. Stephens, who averages 14.2 points a contest, is the Bulldogs’ three-point threat, with a 45 percent clip from beyond the arc (32-of-71). In fact, 61.5 percent of his points this season have come from long range, making him one of the top priorities for a Bona defense that is just above average when it comes to defending the three this year (opponents are shooting 33.5 percent).
Darryl Palmer- 6-foot-8 senior center. Listed as a center despite standing at 6-foot-8, Palmer is the team’s top defensive player, with 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game to complement his 7.9 scoring average. In his last two games, he had a double-double against Jacksonville and missed out on a double-double by one rebound against Duquesne, giving him four games with double-figure scoring and eight games with five or more rebounds thus far this season.
Keys to victory for South Carolina St.: The Bulldogs will need to improve their rebounding to pull off the upset. They’ve grabbed 33 rebounds a game this year compared to Bona’s 37, and with 6-foot-10 Bona center Jordan Tyson making his season debut, the glass becomes even more important in this game. SBU has outrebounded opponents by 19 overall this year despite not having a player over 6-foot-9 until today, and that’s a major reason for their 6-2 record. If the Bonnies hold the rebounding edge, the Bulldogs are at a major disadvantage.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: In addition to the obvious key of not playing down to their opponent like they have in the past, Bona must continue taking care of the ball. The Bonnies are 70th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio with a 1.266 mark, with just under 15 assists a game and only 11.8 turnovers a contest. Guards Jaylen Adams (39 assists to 21 turnovers), Marcus Posley (32 assists to 19 turnovers) and Nelson Kaputo (24 assists, 10 turnovers) have been major factors in keeping that mark high, and it will serve the team well to continue limiting its turnovers while sharing the ball as conference play approaches.
Bona shouldn’t have too much trouble in this one as long as it keeps up the exceptional ball security that has brought success in the early going.